Threat to sue over cut hours

June 30, 2006

Twelve students are threatening to sue the University of Wales, Newport, for breach of contract after teaching time on their courses was halved at short notice.

Solicitors acting on behalf of the environmental management, archaeology and modern languages students are preparing a test case that it is believed could set a precedent in higher education by challenging an institution's right to make changes on courses without consultation.

Academic and student union leaders at Newport said the university failed to inform anyone of its decision to axe lecturers' jobs and to cut contact time on the affected courses by 50 per cent.

About a dozen lecturers are losing their jobs because the university has decided to wind down the courses because they are less popular and uneconomic to run.

In the face of student pressure, Newport has agreed to return teaching time to its original level for those who are on the courses next year.

But some students are still angry that they have been required to continue to pay full fees this year.

Jonathan Williams, an archaeology student, said there were calls for financial compensation.

He said: "The sudden drop in teaching time was just presented to us as a fait accompli . We have completed the year having done only half the work we expected to do and we are worried that this will affect our employment chances when we leave."

Les James, vice-chair of the University and College Union at Newport, said:

"It is inevitable that there are consequences for the way courses are delivered."

A Newport spokesman said the changes to teaching hours had been approved by external examiners and "reflect academic teaching practice across the university".

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